Rainbow International’s David Shimwell: How to use PR as a franchise
David Shimwell, franchise recruitment manager at disaster recovery and specialist cleaning firm Rainbow International, presents his top tips for how franchises can maximise their PR efforts.
Getting a strong PR strategy under your belt as a franchise can be all it takes to place you head and shoulders above others in your field. Below are my top PR tips to help your franchise reach the right audiences without the sky-high costs of direct advertising.
Utilising PR for your franchise boils down to two main areas:
- Building and maintaining your reputation
- Forging media relations
Building and maintaining your reputation
Be a consistent communicator: Your tone of voice should be clear and consistent. You already have your overall brand, courtesy of your franchise’s parent company. However your business is still individual and unique. One of the key fundamentals of PR is being a good communicator – so you’ll need to nail this one early on. Remember: “everything you do or say is public relations.”
Branding is important: When you buy a franchise, you buy into a brand. However, you’ll still need to market your own branch and what it has to offer. You can do this by building an individual brand for your business and being consistent with it. Find your USP and focus on it from all angles. This will strengthen your reputation and ensure that people will remember you.
Don’t neglect CSR: As you grow into a mature franchise, you need to work more on maintaining your reputation than on boosting it. People already know about your business – but don’t let them forget it.
One of the ways in which I would suggest ensuring this is to be mindful of your CSR. Is your franchise ethical? Does it support charities? Being active in the community and building a strong social presence will do you no end of favours as a franchise.
Understand crisis management: We are only human and things can go wrong. Many brands manage to improve public opinion not just through their day to day performance, but also by their response to less desirable circumstances.
In order to maintain a good brand image, you should know what to do when things break down. If you’re facing a PR disaster – for example, if an unhappy customer’s public complaints are damaging your reputation, or if your franchise ends up in the media on unfavourable terms – you must act quickly and confidently.
These issues should always be addressed from the top down; your franchisors should be made immediately aware of any problem and will usually take the lead in resolving it. For successful PR crisis management, I would recommend that a brand:
- Gathers all the information available in order to tackle the problem head on.
- Publicly acknowledges the problem on all platforms – both online and offline – and broadcasts a sincere, personal apology.
- Takes a transparent approach. You should explain exactly what went wrong and what will be done about it.
- Sticks to its word. Whatever you promise to do must be achievable, effective and timely.
- Doesn’t dwell on the issues. If you have taken the correct steps, you will regain the respect of your audience naturally – as long as you continue to conduct yourself well both in terms of PR and general brand performance.
Forging media relations
Building a network is key to developing effective media relations. Media coverage is one of the most vital areas of maintaining a great PR strategy.
By spreading your brand via the correct channels, you can build visibility and trust among the audiences most likely to convert into sales leads. To do this, you need to forge connections with the right journalists, bloggers and other influential broadcasters.
These relationships will be based on give and take. The journalists will be able to call upon you to provide expert comments, allowing them to furnish their work with strong first-hand references. In return, your name will be broadcast across the correct networks in the capacity of a trusted specialist.
As a franchise owner, in order to start building media relationships, I would suggest:
- Contacting journalists who you know cover your industry in the press and let them know you’re available to comment on any relevant stories with expert insight. The more flexible you can be, the better.
- Monitoring social media; you never know when a ‘journo request’ could pop up on Twitter or Facebook.
- Building a portfolio of publications you’ve appeared in. The more times your name and franchise has been in the media, the more likely a journalist is to trust you as an expert commentator.
The best approach when it comes to media relations is to work on building strong, trusting connections with the right people before making any major demands.
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